Tuesday, August 02, 2016
"The Hour Has Come" Sermon: John 12:20-26
“The Hour Has Come”
July 31, 2016 Second Reformed Church
In 1969, Charles Manson sent a number of his “family” to commit murder. One of his followers was a man named, Charles Watson, who is serving life in prison for his crimes.
Charles Watson tells his story in the book, “Will You Die for Me?”, explaining how Charles Manson would occasionally test the loyalty of his followers by putting a gun to their head and asking, “Will you die for me?” – the possibility was always there that Mason would fire the gun.
After being in prison for some years, Watson professed faith in Christ and explained that Jesus Christ puts the same question to each of us that Mason did: “Will you die for Me?” Are you willing to die for Jesus Christ as a witness to the Gospel?
This is not a strange or perverted question. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and one of those who attempted to assassinate Hitler wrote in his book, “The Cost of Discipleship,” “When Jesus calls a man, he bids him come and die” (http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/98256-when-christ-calls-a-man-he-bids-him-come-and).
Jesus lived and died that we would have life abundant, and Jesus calls all we who believe to live and die – and to even be willing to be put to death – for the sake of the Gospel.
We may remember that the crowd from Bethany – from the party for Lazarus – and the crowd from Jerusalem – who were gathered there for the Passover – joined together and lined the streets as Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem. Under the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the crowd cried out to Jesus as their Savior and the rightful King of Israel. And the Pharisees were outraged. The Pharisees even accused each other of their failed plans to stop Jesus saying, “The whole world has gone after Him!”
And there is a sense in which their words were true.
Let us turn to our text
“Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.”
First, we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to bless all the nations through him.
We read, “And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice’” (Genesis 22:15-18, ESV).
And here we see, Jesus first went to the Jews with the Gospel and shunned the Gentiles – the non-Jews – but now, the Greeks – non- Jewish believers in the God of Israel – came to Him and He received them.
The field is fully opened – every living person is the right person to tell the Gospel. There is no one too rich or poor, dumb or smart, right color of wrong color, right background or wrong background, or anything – everyone is to be called to the Gospel – called to repentance and belief. And you are the right one to do it. Every Christian – every Christian – is called by Jesus – commanded by Jesus – to tell everyone – the whole Creation – the Gospel – Who Jesus is and what He did.
Second, the coming of the Gentiles was the sign of Jesus’ glorification.
“And Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’
Up to this point, we had heard Jesus say it was not yet time.
Now, with the Gentiles coming to faith, the time had come. Specifically, the time for the Son of Man – (“Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself) – to be glorified.
It was time for Jesus to be revealed to be the prophesied Savior – to make much of Him – showing all of His greatness and worthiness – through His death. With the coming of the Gentiles, Jesus knew it was time for Him to be revealed as God the Son and Savior through His death.
Jesus said, “truly, truly” – and we may remember that repetition like this means, “listen up, this is important” and Jesus gave this analogy: if a grain of wheat is not dead and buried in the earth, nothing happens, but if it is dead and buried in the ground, it will “rise from the dead” – it will grow and bear much fruit.
Any of us who have planted something in the garden will understand this: If you buy a packet of seeds and leave it alone and don’t do anything with it, how many plants will grow? But, if you take the dead-looking seeds and plant them in the garden and water and fertilize them, then what will happen? They will grow and bear whatever kind of fruit you planted, right?
Jesus said, “If I do not die and be buried, there can be no salvation. There can be no growth unless the Gospel is completed through death and burial – after which, it will bring much fruit. I will rise from the dead and give you the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth – I will bear much fruit through you.”
When we plant a seed, it grows up, puts out branches, and fruit grows on the branches. That is the Glory of Jesus Christ realized in the hour of His death and burial, which resulted in His resurrection and our salvation to bear much fruit for Him.
Our response to His glorification, Jesus explained, is, third, we are to hate our life in this world.
‘Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’
Is Jesus saying we ought to be suicidal? Is He saying that we should hate being alive? Is He saying that we should hate the way we live and all that we have and are?
John Calvin wrote about this text, “When, therefore, the godly are distressed by various afflictions, when they are pressed hard by the difficulties of their situation, when they suffer hunger, or nakedness, or diseases, when they are assailed by reproaches, when it appears as if they would every hour be almost overwhelmed by death, let them unceasingly consider that this is a sowing which, in due time, will yield fruit” (Calvin, John, v 2, 28).
Jesus was saying that Christians ought not to be overwhelmed by suffering. If we are crushed and destroyed by every loss on earth – by every pain – if we “can’t live” after such and such happens. Well, then, your life will be lost, and you will be inconsolable, even if you are received into the Kingdom by the skin of your teeth.
On the other hand, if we enjoy all the good that God has made – and do so to His Glory – and recognize that we are in a world corrupted by sin, so things will go wrong, we will suffer and we will suffer for the sake of the Gospel, we will suffer loss and pain –
And yet, Paul reminds us: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:18-28, ESV).
Rather than being in love with the world and our comfort – to the point that the world and even ourselves become idols for us – that we hold them in higher esteem than the Triune God – we are to keep the world and our suffering in its place – far below Jesus and all that we receive from Him – including the glory to come. And if we suffer for Christ and His Gospel, we are to rejoice – not to enjoy the pain, but give thanks to God that we have been recognized as Christians and found worthy to suffer for Him.
As Peter wrote, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’
“Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 4:12-19, ESV).
“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:37-39, ESV).
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?’” (Matthew 16:24-26, ESV).
“’Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it. I tell you, in that night there will be two in one bed. One will be taken and the other left. There will be two women grinding together. One will be taken and the other left.’ And they said to him, ‘Where, Lord?’ He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather’” (Luke 17:32-37, ESV).
Whatever we suffer as Christians and for the sake of Christ is nothing compared with the glory we shall be received into. And whatever we suffer as Christians and for the sake of the Gospel is for our benefit, for our good, for the growth – the bearing of more fruit – in the Gospel.
Jesus continued, fourth, promising that He is always with those who serve Him and vice versa.
“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.”
If we are believers in Jesus Christ, then we are no longer slaves of sin, but we have been transferred into the Kingdom of our beloved Jesus, and we now serve Him instead.
If we truly serve Jesus, we will follow Him – we will do all those things that He has commanded; we will obey Him. And if we truly serve Jesus wherever He is, we will be found beside Him – for there is nowhere else we would rather be.
Fifth, the Father honors those who serve Jesus.
“If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
No matter what we endure in this life and for the sake of Jesus Christ and His Gospel, God the Father honors we who serve Jesus – all those who have repented of their sins and believed in Jesus as God and Savior.
God honors us for the sake of the Work of Jesus in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension, and we are forever right with God – reconciled to God, no matter what may happen to us. And God will glorify us as the perfect and holy brothers and sisters of Jesus when the Kingdom is ushered in fully.
Paul writes, “The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13, ESV).
So let us be faithful and obedient to our God and Savior, and spread the Gospel throughout the Creation. Tell everyone you can – show how much you value Jesus and all He has done to save us.
Let us not worry about whatever might happen to us or be taken away from us, but, instead, trust in the God Who has saved us and given us the privilege to be His servants and the promise that we will be His forever.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for being the One True and Sovereign God, for sending Your Son to live and die and rise and ascend back to His throne. Thank You for impressing upon us why it was absolutely necessary that Jesus die – that He would be glorified and we would be honored and glorified for His sake. Help us to be faithful and obedient servants, spreading the Gospel and enduring tribulation, looking forward to the glory of the Kingdom. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.